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Athlete foot injuries, who do universities call?

While concerns over concussions have taken center stage in the media recently, many universities have specialists on staff or speed dial to address the foot and ankle injuries sustained by student-athletes. Dr. Michelle Anania, who is a partner at Ankle & Foot Care Centers in the Mahoning Valley, has been affiliated with Youngstown State University since 2008. “I handle anything ankle- or foot-related including sprains, fractures and bunions,” said Anania. “Generally speaking I do not attend the games. However, if the athletic department, a trainer or the medical director sees something that requires a podiatrist’s attention, they send the person to my office.” (Photo courtesy of The University of Akron).

SHERRY KARABIN
Legal News Reporter

Published: January 13, 2015

When Youngstown State University assistant volleyball coach Sarah Smith began having chronic heel and arch pain in her feet last summer she did not go to a private doctor. Instead she was referred to the athletic department’s podiatrist, Dr. Michelle Anania.

Anania, who is a partner at Ankle & Foot Care Centers in the Mahoning Valley, has been affiliated with the university since 2008.

“I handle anything ankle- or foot-related including sprains, fractures and bunions,” said Anania.

“Generally speaking I do not attend the games. However, if the athletic department, a trainer or the medical director sees something that requires a podiatrist’s attention, they send the person to my office.”

In Smith’s case she first went to see Anania in October after her pain got progressively worse.

“She took an x-ray which showed a small heel spur and Plantar Fasciitis,” said Smith. “She prescribed an Airheel for me to wear in the office, showed me some stretches, used ultrasound treatment and gave me a steroid shot.

“It is now December and I am starting to feel better. I can run without pain and perform my regular activities. It’s great that the school has someone who can treat students and staff with foot injuries.”

“As a podiatric physician, we receive specialized training in biomechanics of the lower extremity which makes us particularly adept at treating these types of sports injuries,” said Anania.

“I have treated a lot of stress fractures on runners which if ignored can lead to a complete fracture. I also see a lot of ingrown toenails, which can occur because of improper shoes. Soccer players are notorious for wearing shoes that are one or two sizes too small because it gives them more power in their kick. It’s very hard to break them of that habit.”

“We have two orthopedic surgeons and a chiropractor on staff in addition to myself,” said James Shina, medical director and chief physician for Youngstown State University’s athletic department.

“Anytime a student-athlete is injured, he/she is triaged. I look out for non-surgical issues and if an injury is orthopedic in nature, I send the student to the orthopedist.

“I am a primary care physician and if I see something that I am not accustomed to taking care of, I have other doctors on speed dial.”

He said having a variety of specialized doctors on staff is common at larger universities, however budgetary constraints mean smaller schools need to be more creative in their approach.

“Having a doctor who is just a phone call away is the next best thing,” he said. “Dr. Anania and I had a relationship before I started at YSU so bringing her in was a no-brainer for me. She makes herself available any time I call unless she is in surgery.

“Last winter we had a student lock herself out of her apartment in the middle of the freezing winter,” said Shina. “She got frostbite on her heel. She came to see me with a deep wound and I knew right away that she needed a podiatrist.”

Over at The University of Akron, Director of Sports Medicine Bill Droddy said the school has seven full-time athletic trainers and six graduate assistants on staff, all nationally certified and licensed by the state.

“Each student-athlete has at least one athletic trainer who is responsible for overseeing any healthcare-related injuries,” said Droddy.

“There is a lot of attention paid to concussions in the media, but here at the university we treat all injuries equally.”

If a student-athlete has a problem, he said the athletic trainer evaluates and determines whether the ailment can be addressed at the university or if a referral is needed.

Droddy said the school contracts with two physicians groups to provide care to its student-athletes. He said Akron Children’s Hospital provides six different physicians that specialize in sports medicine and Dr. Raymond Acus and Dr. Timothy Myer of the Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center are the university’s orthopedic surgeons.

“In addition to these physicians, we have special relationships with a plethora of physicians and medical professionals in a variety of specialty areas to provide the high level of care that our student-athletes deserve,” said Droddy.

“An ankle sprain is the most common injury we see,” he said. “Most ankle and foot injuries can be handled here. If there are complicated issues involved we refer the student to a specialist.”

While athletes who sustain ankle and foot injuries often want to keep playing, he said it’s important to get them treatment right away because continuing to use the injured part can result in more serious conditions.

“Regardless of the injury, our goal is to get the person back to as close to 100 percent as possible,” said Droddy.


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